Politicians pay respects at funeral of MSP Ahmad

LEADING figures from the world of politics turned out yesterday to pay their final respects to the first Muslim member of the Scottish Parliament.

More than 1,000 people packed into Glasgow Central Mosque for the funeral of Bashir Ahmad, who died of a heart attack on Friday at the age of 68.

Tributes have flooded in from across the political spectrum for Ahmad, who was elected in 2007 as an SNP member for Glasgow. First Minister Alex Salmond, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour leader Iain Gray were among those who attended the service today.

Salmond described Ahmad as "a man of enormous grace and respect". He said: "Bashir's election to Holyrood in 2007 marked a change for the better – both for the Parliament and for Scotland as a whole.

"As the first Scots-Asian MSP, Bashir symbolised how Scotland's democracy reflects all of Scotland, and is for all of our nation's rich and diverse communities.

"When he launched 'Scots-Asians for Independence' in 1995, Bashir electrified the party conference when he said that what matters in Scotland is not where we come from, but where we are going – together.

"That is a message of hope, decency and inclusion which speaks to all of Scotland, and I believe will be Bashir's lasting legacy to the country he loved so well."

Ahmad leaves a wife, five daughters and two sons who were all at the service, which was led by Imam Habib Rauf. After the ceremony the funeral party went to Cathcart Cemetery in Linn Park, Glasgow, where Ahmad was laid to rest.

Ahmad was born in India and brought up in Pakistan. He moved to Scotland aged 21 and worked as a bus conductor before buying his own shop and building up a business empire.

He was elected to the Pollokshields East ward on Glasgow City Council in 2003 and became a Glasgow MSP in May 2007.